UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Outsourcing & Austerity - a recipe for crisis in the Third Sector

On Friday a conference organised by the TUC, UNISON, UNITE and representatives of Civil Society organisations, National Association of Voluntary and Community Action, (NAVCA), and National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA), heard first hand reports on the devastating impact of the government's austerity measures and legislative programme on charities, voluntary organisations, and public services

Giving the keynote speech Dr Ursula Murray from Birbeck College outlined the crisis in the third sector. She pointed out that many local voluntary organisations were being crushed not only by the government’s swingeing cuts to their funding but also being swamped by private sector predators who are sweeping up the rich pickings from the government procurement agenda.

At the same time she highlighted the few ‘Super Charities’ as she described them, who have abandoned their principles and are happy to collaborate with the government and the huge corporates in the hope they might escape the worst of the austerity cuts.

But the attack on genuine services to local communities is also being undermined by the government's legislative programme. This year alone the government has enacted laws which will hand most public services to major corporations such as SERCO, CAPITA, etc.

The Localism Act 2012, enshrines community organisations ‘Right to Challenge’. Under this provision any organisation deemed a community organisation by the Secretary of State, or two employees working in a service, can challenge the way a particular service is delivered. This will trigger a full procurement process and open the door to big multinational companies moving in and taking over the service.

Gail Cartmail Assistant General Secretary UNITE stressed the importance of trade unions organising in communities to fight back against the coalition onslaught against the most vulnerable in society. She argued that civil society groups, voluntary organisations and the trade unions must build an alliance to protect our public services and the working people who delivered them.

Andy Bevin Convenor of NCIA, was in no doubt that there needed coordination between activist groups and trade unions to lead the fightback. He was scathing in his attack on the huge charitable organisations who gave legitimacy to the government attacks by cooperating with the coalition agenda in the hope that a few crumbs may fall from the corporate table.

UNISON’s Assistant General Secretary Karen Jennings outlined the importance of the voluntary sector complimenting rather that competing with the statutory organisations delivery of public services.
The conference heard many examples of the hardship inflicted on individuals and communities by the governments ideological attack on public services but there was a consensus that the fightback must start now and that trade unions are essential to the fight if the battle is to be won.